Special Tribunal for Lebanon
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|Special Tribunal for Lebanon|
|المحكمة الخاصة بلبنان
Tribunal spécial pour le Liban
The seat of the Tribunal
|Composition method||Appointment by the United Nations Secretary-General|
|Authorized by||Resolution 1757|
|Judge term length||3 years|
|Number of positions||9|
|Jurist term ends||2015|
|Jurist term ends||2015|
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is an international criminal tribunal for the prosecution, under international law, of criminal acts of those responsible for the assassination of Rafic Hariri on 14 February 2005. Therefore, the tribunal is also called "Hariri Tribunal". The court is based in Leidschendam, near The Hague, Netherlands and it has a field office in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
The tribunal officially opened on 1 March 2009. There was an initial three-year mandate for the court and there is no fixed timeline for the judicial work to be completed, so the tribunal may be operational for several years. In January 2011, the Lebanese government collapsed when 11 cabinet ministers aligned with the March 8 alliance resigned following Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's refusal to reject the STL. Six months later a new government was formed composed of March 8 members and the former March 14's Progressive Socialist Party under Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
In March 2011, Antonio Cassese, the president of the STL, issued his second annual report on the operation and activities of the tribunal in which he anticipated the completion of the bulk of the court’s work by 2015. “The end of investigations with a view to submitting indictments by 29 February 2012 would allow us to begin with maximum alacrity, already in this third year, at least pre-trial and some trial proceedings, thus being able to complete the core mandate of the Tribunal within a total of six years”, said Judge Cassese. The prosecutor submitted an indictment on 17 January 2011 and filed an amendment to the indictment on 12 March. After a review by the pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen, the tribunal submitted four confidential arrest warrants to the authorities of Lebanon on 30 June 2011. According to secondary sources, the warrants name four senior members of Hezbollah. The party's leader Hassan Nasrallah denounced the legitimacy of the tribunal three days later on 3 July.
Before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was established the UNIIIC was in charge of investigating the assassination of Rafic Hariri. The UNIIIC’s role was to gather evidence and to assist the Lebanese authorities to conduct their investigations. The STL and UNIIIC are completely separate organisations.
The United Nations investigation initially implicated high-level Lebanese and Syrian security officers in Hariri's killing. Damascus denied involvement. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals were detained by the Lebanese authorities for four years without charge in connection with Hariri's killing. One of the first acts of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was to order the release of the generals after an STL judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to justify their detention.
The court was established by an agreement between the United Nations and the Lebanese Republic pursuant to Security Council resolution 1664 (2006) of 29 March 2006. The United Nations Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, endorsed the agreement on 30 May 2007 (Security Council Resolution 1757 (2007)).
The tribunal's mandate is to "prosecute persons responsible for the attack on 14 February 2005 resulting in the death of sitting Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and in the death or injury of other persons." It was also tasked with a further extension of its jurisdiction beyond the 14 February 2005 bombing if there was evidence showing other attacks that occurred in Lebanon between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005 were connected and were of a similar nature and gravity to the original attack.Human Rights Watch had argued that the tribunal should have been given jurisdiction over 14 other attacks perpetrated in Lebanon since 1 October 2004. The tribunal said it could expand its mandate to include attacks which took place between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005, if they can be shown to have a connection to the assassination.
The tribunal marks the first time that a UN-based international criminal court tries a "terrorist" crime committed against a specific person. According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1664 (2006), it is a "tribunal of an international character based on the highest international standards of criminal justice."
The Special Tribunal is a "hybrid" international court, similar to the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). The STL does not apply international (criminal) law, but rather national law (Article 2 of the Statute of the Special Tribunal). Accordingly, it also is similar to the Section I for War Crimes and Section II for Organized Crime, Economic Crime and Corruption of the Criminal and Appellate Divisions of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina which has such "hybrid" chambers.
Structure and staff
The STL consists of four separate departments, known as organs in international justice. They are; the Chambers, which consists of judges; the Registry, which runs all the administration of the tribunal; the Office of the Prosecutor; and the Defence Office.
The STL is the first international tribunal to have a defence office that is independent of the registry. Other tribunals have had a defence office, but never before has there been a defence office that is an independent organ, on a par with the Office of the Prosecutor.
Ban Ki-Moon appointed Robin Vincent Registrar (senior administrator) of the Tribunal on 11 March 2008. A series of successive resignations in early January triggered concerns about the staffing of the tribunal. The registrar of the STL David Tolbert, and Chief of Investigation Naguib Kaldas resigned during the first two weeks of January. Following the resignation of David Vincent, Ban Ki-moon appointed David Tolbert registrar on 9 July 2009, to assume the post effective 26 August 2009. Joyce Tabet assumed the post of Deputy Prosecutor of the Court in November 2009.
Sir David Baragwanath was elected President of the Tribunal on 10 October 2011 following the resignation of President of the tribunal, late Antonio Cassese. Judge Ralph Riachy is the[clarification needed] vice-president on the tribunal. Daniel Fransen is also a pre-judge hearing the case.
In September 2010, the tribunal appointed Lebanese national Alia Aoun as the deputy to the head of Defense Office François Roux.
In September 2007, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon estimated that the tribunal would cost 120 USD million over three years. During the Opening Ceremony for the Tribunal, which was held on 1 March 2009, UN officials indicated that contributions were in hand to cover the estimated costs of the first year (51.4 million USD). The budget for the second year, 2010, was $55.4m and for the third year, 2011, the budget is $65.7m
For reasons of security, administrative efficiency and fairness, the tribunal has its seat outside Lebanon, in Leidschendam in The Netherlands. The premises of the tribunal are the former Algemene Inlichtingen- en VeiligheidsDienst (AIVD) building. It was announced in March 2010 that the Special Court for Sierra Leone would use the same courtroom in The Hague as the STL.
|This section requires expansion. (November 2010)|
The Prosecutor continues the investigation carried out by the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission. In conducting the investigation, the Prosecutor, will obtain statements from witnesses, collect evidence and conduct onsite investigations. In carrying out these tasks, the Prosecutor shall, as appropriate, work in cooperation with the relevant Lebanese authorities.
While the Prosecutor acts independently in the conduct of his investigation, he must obtain the authorisation of the Pre-Trial Judge of the Tribunal to undertake compulsory investigative measures.
Once he reaches the conclusion that there is sufficient evidence of the commission of a crime by an individual to justify the filing of an indictment and that it is in the public interest to do so, he will present the indictment setting out the charges to the Pre-trial judge for confirmation. If the judge is satisfied that the evidence is at first glance sufficient to support the charges, he will confirm the indictment. The Prosecutor stated before the Security Council that he does not intend to start issuing indictments upon assumption of his function as Prosecutor and that he would not provide any timeframe for submission of indictments.
In October 2010, the STL's investigators carried out a "controlled explosion" at an air force base in Captieux, France to replicate "an explosion in order to carry out forensic tests." However, the STL said the explosion was not a full-scale reconstruction of the assassination.
The STL has provoked controversy as well as tension in Lebanon between the parties the tribunal concerns. Reports that the trial considers Syria and Hezbollah has caused anger with those respective parties; at the same time, pro-Syria factions have pointed to a potentially false witness who testified to the tribunal as evidence of the STL's lack of credibility. Comments made by former General Jamil al Sayyed also raised tension between political groups.
Alleged Syrian involvement
The Syrian government claimed in the days following the assassination that it was carried out by a Palestinian named Ahmed Abu Addas. While this has been discredited, Michel Aoun, a Maronite leader allied with the 8 March coalition, has maintained that other factions, such as Fatah Al Islam, are the culprits.
Four Lebanese officers were detained with no charges for four years, by the Lebanese Armed Forces. They were allegedly pro-Syrian Lebanese generals, and their release was seen as a severe blow in implicating Syria. They were believed by the March 14 alliance to have been involved in a Syrian conspiracy to assassinate Rafik Hariri. Judge Fransen released Mustafa Hamdan, former head of the Lebanese Presidential Guard brigade; Jamil al Sayyed, former Director-General of Security General; Ali al Hajj, director general of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces; and Raymond Azar, the former director of the Military Intelligence. He said the four generals had to be freed because there was no evidence to justify their detention, given that some witnesses had changed or retracted their statements. "[There were] inconsistencies in the statements of key witnesses [and a] lack of corroborative evidence to support these statements."
A legal case against 25 Lebanese officials has also been leveled in a Syrian court by one of the persons initially arrested by the tribunal for wrongful imprisonment.
In September 2010, Saad Hariri told Asharq al-Awsat that "We assessed the mistakes that we made with Syria, that harmed the Syrian people and relations between the two countries. At a certain stage we made mistakes and accused Syria of assassinating the martyred premier. This was a political accusation, and this political accusation has finished." Though he added "The tribunal is not linked to the political accusations, which were hasty ... The tribunal will only look at evidence." Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Syria had been vindicated as most Lebanese did not believe Syria was responsible anymore since they had been misled.
The term "false witnesses" is a frequent talking point in the criticisms of 8 March officials directed toward the tribunal. The charges leveled by detractors stem from the initial investigation led by the United Nations International Independent Investigation Committee, which gathered much of the evidence for the tribunal, and which critics claim is based largely on false testimonial.
This phrase takes its weight predominantly from the discredited testimony of two men, Mohammad Zuheir Siddiq and Husam Taher Husam, who identified themselves as former Syrian intelligence officers, and alleged top-level Syrian involvement in the killing of Hariri. In 2009, Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare declared that they were "no longer of interest to the court."
General Jamil al Sayyed filed a lawsuit in December 2009 in Damascus because he "did not have faith in Lebanon's judiciary," which he accused of covering up for "false witnesses." Mohammed Zaheer Al Sadiq, a former Syrian agent, accused Hezbollah personnel of "logistical involvement" in the murder. The tribunal has stated, however, that he is no longer considered a credible witness. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of Hezbollah, stated that Al Sadiq should be tried for acting as a false witness. Following his deportation from the UAE, where he was held for entering that country under a false Czech passport, he remains in hiding in France.
Upon the Lebanese cabinet giving Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar the task of studying the issue of false witnesses, STL spokeswoman Fatima el-Issawi said the tribunal does not comment on the decisions of the Lebanese government. She added that the STL had been authorised to prosecute those involved in the assassination and that if conditions were available, the authorisation would also include the suspects of other attacks that took place in Lebanon between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005 or later. Michel Aoun said a case had been filed to resolve the issue of false witnesses. He also claimed that the government and judiciary have tried to cover up the matter and said it was not the prerogative of the Justice Minister to "starting an investigation that will determine their innocence." Change and Reform parliamentary bloc MP, Nabil Nicolas, said the testimony made by Sadiq included the signature of Wissam Hasan, the head of the Intelligence Bureau of the Internal Security Forces, (an organisation is considered illegal by the FPM) as a "translator." He said the data was very dangerous and urging the Lebanese judiciary to open investigations to examine its credibility. The Justice Minister, Ibrahim Najjar, issued his report into the false witnesses saga that was tasked to him on 18 August. In the report he reiterated "The principle of independence of the judiciary as stated in the Constitution;" "Respect for international agreements (namely that between Lebanon and the United Nations on the formation of a special tribunal for Lebanon); and "The principle of confidentiality of the investigation." He also said Siddiq was never questioned by the judicial authorities, but only as a witness by the International Committee after leaving Lebanon in April 2005. The STL's prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, in response to the justice minister's letter that "false witnesses are witnesses with their credibility in question as long as there is no final Court decision yet." Bellemare reportedly said in his response to Najjar's letter. The cabinet was set to discuss the matter, amidst Hezbollah's view that it had contradictions and others saying it was political.
A Hezbollah official, Nabil Qaouk, suggested that all sides in Lebanon would agree that trying the false witnesses who misled the investigation and caused the internal political crisis in the country, as well as harmed Lebanese-Syrian relations for the five years since the assassination, would be a "natural solution to the current crisis." Nasrallah also accused the STL and the UN of protecting the false witnesses. the party's Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem held talks with the Tawheed Movement leader Wiam Wahhab that concluded: "Opening the false witnesses file is a priority that would fortify the internal Lebanese scene against foreign meddling and wrongful accusations." The head of Hezbollah's Juristic Council, Sheikh Mohamad Yazbek, also called the STL politicised and called for the a tribunal "which seeks the truth." In October, Berri said his Development and Liberation bloc ministers would not attend cabinet sessions without discussion towards ending the "false witnesses" issue. He also expressed his view that the Justice Council would be a better place to work out the whole imbroglio.
Speaking about the false witness, Saad Hariri backtracked on his own accusations that Syria killed his father, saying "Some people have misled the probe and harmed Syria and Lebanon. They have harmed ties between the two countries and politicized the assassination." He said the charge had been politically motivated. However, his fellow 14 March colleague and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea said he rejected Hariri’s "reconsideration strategy." The Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir also said that though he did not know about the false witnesses, they "should be held accountable." Former 14 March MP Walid Jumblatt rejected calls for Hariri resignation saying he was needed to deal with the "problems of the country as a whole, like false witnesses and others."
al-Sayyed's lawyer, Fasih al-Ashi, said after repeated summons by Syria for the accused false witnesses were ignored, a Syrian court issued more than 30 warrants against judges, officers, politicians and journalists from various Arab countries. The accused include: Lebanese MP Marwan Hamade, State Prosecutor Saeed Mirza, Internal Security Forces chief Major General Ashraf Rifi, Information Branch chief Wissam Hasan, Journalist Fares Khashan, Saad Hariri's advisor Hani Hammoud, Judge Saqr Saqr, Former head of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) Detlev Mehlis and his aide Gerhard Lehmann, and witnesses Ibrahim Michel Jarjoura, Akram Shakib Murad, Mohammed Zuheir Siddiq and Abdul Baset Bani Audeh. Syria's Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, however, said the warrants were "purely procedural." Berri reacted to the warrants saying they were a response to "unjustified sluggish" dealing with the issue in Lebanon after Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar's report in August on an appropriate mechanism to follow up on this issue "but nothing happened ever since." He said "the Lebanese judiciary should have moved automatically to investigate the case after honest statements made by me, President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Had the issue been seriously and swiftly tackled, the arrest warrants would not have been issued." One of the accused, Fares Khashan, a journalist, sought asylum in France.
General Jamil al Sayyed controversy
General Jamil al Sayyed, one of the generals freed after being in prison for four years, attacked Saad Hariri and asked him to "take a lie detector test to prove that he did not support or fund false witnesses, and should admit that he sold his father’s blood for four years in order to implement the New Middle East project," adding that "After all you have done to Syria, Bashar Assad hugged you rather than hanging you to death. It's not enough for Hariri to admit that he erred, he has to pay the price of his mistakes." He also suggested that prosecutor Daniel Bellemare should have summoned Hariri's political, security and judicial team and questioned them, then called on him and then STL President Antonio Cassese to resign "so that they will not [stand] beside counterfeiters." Despite some witnesses changing their testimony or to have been found to be lying, he said the STL did not want to prosecute anyone as a false witness because "big heads would roll." After he accused Saad Hariri of supporting the "false witnesses," on 12 September 2010, he called for Hariri to be held accountable or "I will do it someday with my own hands. The Lebanese people must unite against this [government] and topple it, even if by force." On 20 October 2010, he filed a request with then STL President Judge Cassese asking him to disqualify the STL Vice-President Judge Ralph Riachy because of the latter's involvement in his "arbitrary detention, the thing that raises questions about his integrity and impartiality." He later said that "the evidence of these offences has been concealed for the last five years by the prosecutor" and accused the then STL's Bellemare of "hiding evidence of lies."
Said Mirza, the Attorney General, called Jamil al Sayyed for questioning over his "threats against the Lebanese state, judiciary, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri." Sayyed then left for France where he intended to wait for the verdict; however, he had also previously been to Syria where he was said to pressure the government to take action again some of the false witnesses who were Syrian. Earlier in the year, Sayyed asked the STL to release his secret case file so he may know who accused him. Sayyed responded to the summons saying he "would not appear before any court unless Saeed Mirza is dismissed." He said would also sue Mirza both in a Syrian court and at STL, for misleading the investigation.
Hezbollah condemned Mirza’s request to summon Sayyed. In turn, Future Movement MP Ouqab Saqr said a journalist, Mustafa Nasser, was acting as a mediator between Hariri and Sayyed, he also alleged Hariri was informed that Sayyed was ready to "turn the page" in exchange for $15 million. He also accused Sayyed of fabricating what Der Spiegel had published earlier saying "We don't want an apology from Hezbollah but we want the Lebanese to know...who spread the rumor." He then took on Hezbollah urging them not to "play with fire" in attempts to ignite Shiite-Sunni strife in the region. Instead, he called on Nasrallah to "extend his arm" as Hariri has done in an "attempted coup" to avoid civil war. al-Sayyed then issued a statement saying he would respond to a "campaign of insults," but said has issue with the MPs' "master," in reference to Hariri. He again accused Hariri of "shouting to mislead the public opinion."
Another Future Movement MP Mohamad Kabbara also responded to Sayyed's rhetoric against Hariri saying "Whoever threatens the leader of the Sunnis or the position of prime minister, with his own hands or not, the Sunni sect will teach him politeness. The enemies of truth and justice, meaning Hezbollah and its allies, have brought down the Lebanese state in preparation to bring down the international tribunal. Whoever is enemy of truth and tribunal is our enemy as well." In response, the head of the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc, MP Mohamad Raad, condmned Kabbara's statement saying "We feel that we are arriving at a new phase of political insanity and we don't know where it will lead...so let us agree on unified standards, imprison the wrongdoer, and we will assist in this process, but it is unacceptable that double standards be adopted." An Hezbollah spokesman, Ibrahim Moussawi, had also accused the Future Movement saying the stances of their leaders "constitute a coup on state authorities from within. What is dangerous is that some members of the Future Movement are raising tensions and instigating sectarian feelings through dragging the country toward civil strife after labeling political stances on a sectarian basis." The Agriculture Minister, Hussein Hajj-Hasan hit back at accusations against Hezbollah saying "we cannot tolerate that you [Hariri’s parliamentary bloc] accuse us and then forgive us five years from now." He said the whole imbroglio would be raised in a cabinet meeting when Najjar finalizes his report on the case. al-Sayyed son, Malek, accused the UN of double standards in refusing to grant his father access to the STL's documents.
Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblatt warned Lebanon was falling into a state of "systematic deterioration" and urged for unity so as to "position to face the indictment [of Hezbollah] and prevent its destructive impact...with the political rhetoric that will have an impact on security, politics, and lives of the people and their morale. Many are asking whether they should stay or leave...without a multiparty agreement on the Tribunal or the indictment, we're going to hell." Michel Aoun also said the STL should cease work until it has sorted the false witnesses issue. The UN then urged the STL not to give al-Sayyed access to the investigations.
Der Spiegel published leaked information which suggested an indictment of Hezbollah figures. Prime Minister Saad Hariri vowed "not to allow my father's blood to stir disunity in Lebanon." He also assured Nasrallah that he would publicly avow that it was "undisciplined" Hezbollah members, and not the party itself, who would be implicated. Hariri asked the tribunal to postpone the announcement because of the potentially incendiary implications for Lebanon of such an announcement, akin to the shootings on the streets of Beirut in 2008.
Hezbollah's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, announced in July 2010 that he was told by Hariri the tribunal would indict Hezbollah members, not Syrian officials. He condemned the investigation as an Israeli project intended to escalate tensions in Lebanon and that any indictment of a Hezbollah member could destabilise the unity government. He also said he would resist any attempt to arrest even "half a member" of the party. He had previously questioned the alleged funding for the STL.
The head of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Change and Reform bloc, Michel Aoun said that Lebanon should unite in light of the domestic situation in the country. "All that is currently happening is a smear campaign. [We have] questions and suspicions regarding several issues [related to STL]."
Information Minister Tarek Mitri said Lebanon should resort to dialogue rather than trade accusations. "The Cabinet is the best place for dialogue to preserve the country’s best interests regardless of the extent of disputes." This followed March 14 Alliance parties and Hezbullah trading barbs over destabilisation of the country amid rising tensions that could lead to civil strife. He also talked of the visits by the Syrian and Saudi heads of state as reflecting the Arab world’s keenness on preserving Lebanon’s stability and on repelling dangers facing the country.
Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir had another reaction to the STL, labeling it as "fair and righteous." Former 14 March MP Samir Frangieh expressed surprise over Nasrallah’s remark that the STL is fair because it exonerated Syria from involvement, but at the same time is an "Israeli project," saying "Nasrallah is telling Syria today that it must help him as he helped it and supported it in the past." However, he added that this does not mean that Hezbollah is at odds with Syria.
Attempt to assuage tensions
On 30 July 2010, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Saudi King Abdullah and Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani visited Lebanon to calm tensions amid reports of an indictment of "rogue" members of Hezbollah. al-Assad's visit to Lebanon was the first since before Hariri's assassination, and follows rare visits by Walid Jumblatt and Saad al-Hariri to Damascus. The visit to Lebanon was built up by the Lebanese media tracing Abdullah's Arab tour when he was in Damascus amid great expectations for the trilateral meet.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and al-Hariri welcomed the Syrian and Saudi leaders saying "The leaders stressed the importance of stability ... the commitment [of the Lebanese] not to resort to violence and the need to place the country's interests above all sectarian interests, [while stressing the need to] resort to legal institutions and Lebanon's unity government to resolve any differences."
After the meeting a joint statament by Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia urged all parties to put Lebanon's interests above all else and refrain from violence. "Solidarity is a necessity, and standing side-by-side to confront challenges facing the Arab world." al-Assad also said "it was an excellent summit," which was echoed by State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley who said the US hoped the meeting would produce "a recommitment to Lebanese sovereignty" and "an understanding to try to restrain those elements within Lebanon who have precipitated conflict in the past." At a ceremony with the Qatari Emir, Suleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, Hariri, and MP Mohammed Raad, representing Hezbollah, Raad said "the stability established in Lebanon after the Doha Accord is being targeted by the STL indictment." Sheikh Hamad said the Lebanese people have enough "will for life and perseverance that would enable them to recover from challenges."
The visit was read by Shadi Hamid, the deputy director of the Brookings Doha Center as crucial ahead of the STL's preliminary findings. He said "There is a risk of escalation, of sectarian violence, and all players involved realise that risk and are taking pre-emptive action to defuse things before they get out of hand in the next weeks and months." Al Jazeera's Rula Amin said the joint visit was hugely symbolic. "These two leaders coming together to Beirut shows the urgency, it shows that they realise the dangers that are lying ahead for Lebanon." Paul Salem, the head of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Centre said "This new situation is very alarming. Hezbollah is in a very worrisome position and the tribunal is just one symptom of this position. If there is movement towards peace in the region, then Hezbollah has a problem. If there's movement toward war, Hezbollah has a problem. And now if the tribunal moves forward, they will also have a problem." Oussama Safa, heads of the Lebanese Centre for Policy Studies said Lebanon has a "50–50 chance" of descending into another round of violence following Nasrallah's announcement of rejection of the STL. "The country could go towards a confrontation and it could also go towards a way to contain this – certainly not by stopping the indictment. But I think all parties have an interest in containing this." A Gulf News editorial said that "Unless the Lebanese wise up, the country is headed for a break-up that will see Israel grab the South for its water resources and Syria occupy the Beqa Valley, the latter confiscated by the French after the poorly devised 1916 Sykes-Picot land redistribution initiatives that passed for policies...Calls for Lebanon to move beyond the STL, which is mandated under a Security Council Chapter 7 initiative to find killers in over 25 cases of political violence, fail to appreciate how little Beirut can actually do about it at this late hour even if five long and largely wasted years have passed without significant results. Simply stated, [the] STL is an independent body that stands beyond Beirut's reach." While it suggested Lebanon leaders must "keep their heads."Al Manar hailed the visit as "exceptional," while saying the visit was believed to be "historic for many reasons, at the top of which comes the 'identity' of the 'guests' as well as the 'nature' of the current stage, considered by all Lebanese to be accurate and sensitive. The importance of the visit can also be reflected through the 'relaxing atmosphere' that prevailed in the country." it said Lebanon was divided over the STL's course of actions, not its "principle[s]," citing how "one bloc was warning of a serious plot to create sedition in the country through the newest Israeli project, the STL, while the other bloc was rejecting any discussion or compromise, claiming that 'international justice' comes above everything else."
- Israeli allegations
Israeli media suggested the tribunal would indict an Hezbollah member, Mustafa Badr al-Din, a relative of Imad Mughniyeh, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, asked the tribunal to postpone the announcement because of the potentially incendiary implications for Lebanon of such an announcement, akin to the shootings on the streets of Beirut in 2008. This was rejected in Lebanon with Al Manar saying "Israel doesn't surrender and therefore doesn't calm down. It believes that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon provides it with the best 'opportunity' for it to achieve its 'unachieved' goals," while saying Israel's "caring for the dignity and honour of Hariri's family perhaps more than all Lebanese and blaming Prime Minister Saad Hariri for favoring his 'political future' over his father's blood, didn't give up and continued spreading scenarios of a verdict denouncing Hezbollah, confirming that the verdict that will be issued soon is an Israeli decision per excellence." This came in response to Israel's Channel 1 announcing the names and positions of alleged suspects. Controversy continued over allegation that the Israeli media quoting sources in the United Nations saying that following the verdict the UN expects some shaking of Lebanon's stability. Channel One said the indictment would be issued in two stages: Accuse two officials from Hezbollah, and include three to five names of senior Hezbollah senior officials. It said the STL’s verdict would not differentiate between the suspects and Hezbollah's leadership. Former head of Operations Directorate in the Israeli army, Major General Yisrael Ziv, said "Hezbollah’s policy now is to walk on the brink of the abyss. Thus, Israel must not make mistakes in order not to fall in the organization’s hand." The channel also quoted a political analyst, Ari Shavit, as saying "Hezbollah is the most ferocious and dangerous enemy for Israel. Thus dragging it into a real interior quagmire and harsh legal problem inside Lebanon is a very positive issue for Israel." Military analyst, Amir Bar-Shalom, was quoted as saying "[Hezbollah] allows itself to take essential options since it has a deterrence power against Israel."
The UNIFIL mission was also called into question should the verdict cause instability as it could endanger the political agreement between Hezbollah and other government partners that support the coalition if UNIFIL is pressured to disarm Hezbollah. A possible consequence of infighting within the government could give Israel a pretext to opt for war on either the south of Lebanon or the entire country should it see a perceived failure of UNIFIL to act. France could also push the UN Security Council to empower UNIFIL, thus enabling it to investigate Hezbollah.
Though Nasrallah was to make a speech said to reveal new information on 9 August, the Lebanese As-Safir reported three days earlier that the STL prosecutor Daniel Bellemare told the United Nations the charges facing the suspects were not based on conclusive evidence. It said the indictment would include in its first phase direct accusations against three Hezbollah members, but without conclusive evidence, instead it would be based on circumstantial evidence. Its source then said indictment would extend to up to 20 party members.
Jamil Sayyed, said the assassination was designed to implicate Syria and cause turmoil in Lebanon; he added that leaks about the possible indictment of Hezbollah members began to surface immediately after a report by Der Spiegel in May 2009 saying the report "reminded us of what happened at the beginning of the international investigation headed at the time by German Prosecutor Detlev Mehlis in 2005 when the probe was based on a report published by the Kuwaiti newspaper Assiyassah in which it accused Syria and the four generals." Suleiman Franjieh warned on 23 September 2010 that indictments against Hezbollah could mean "there is war in Lebanon...and today the atmosphere is just waiting for a spark. If the international tribunal [issues] a 'sectarian' decision, then yes, why don't we cancel it? ... The scenario of the next war is Sunni-Shi'ite [Shia]." He also suggested the STL was undermining Lebanon's stability instead of maintaining justice.
Michel Aoun expressed concern for the future stability of the country, while the Hariri and Syria were at odds. He also said should a conflict arise it would not be sectarian in nature. Walid Jumblatt also expressed "fears [of] the dangerous repercussions" of an indictment during a visit to Syria. His meeting sought to "consolidate the national unity for enhancing the Lebanese points of strength in confronting any future challenges." He told the press that "We have been in a similar period with Syria [before] and we triumphed. Victory will be achieved with Syria just like before."
Then French President Nicholas Sarkozy said to the Saudi Arabia's then Intelligence Chief, Prince Muqrin, that a solution to the crisis lies in with the United States. This came after Mugrim asked France to use its influence to find a solution to the indictment issue. The French Ambassador to Lebanon, Denis Pietton, said France sought to reassure Hezbollah "it would not be the end of the world" if anyone from the party was convicted. He also asserted that Hezbollah "will not be accused as a party. [France] doesn't have any intention to put down Hezbollah on its blacklist, [France] seeks to deal with the party...[which] is a political party in Lebanon." Loyalty to Resistance bloc MP Nawaf al-Mousawi responded to Pietton's saying: "those who need to be reassured are those who, until today, don't realise the damage that the indictment will cause to Lebanon and the region. Those who care for Lebanon, ought to be concerned about ways to prevent the indictment that is expected to be issued in December. Hezbollah is coming under a well organized campaign aimed at crushing it for being a resistance against Israel. This campaign has taken many forms, and indictment is one of them." Syria's Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, also expressed concern about the situation saying it was coordinating with Saudi Arabia over the "worrisome situation," though he added that "Lebanon alone can remove the factors that are causing instability." He also said that "Whoever is interested in Lebanon's stability should work on preventing the tribunal's politicization," and he also countered U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's assertions tha Syria should "not to harm Lebanon's stability through its ties with Hezbollah" in saying "We do not make compromises in our relations with any resistant movements or any state. Syria's goals in Lebanon are clear and they do not exceed wanting to reach calm and stability." US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman held talks in Saudi Arabia where he was reported to have rejected attempts to prevent the STL from issuing an indictment saying the "US is committed to the STL and to stability in Lebanon."
Other analysts suggested Lebanon was heading for a crisis, but Jumblatt suggested there was still an opportunity that required "honest will to end it." He said it would be wrong to say the issue is at a dead end, and added that should Nasrallah and Saad Hariri meet alongst Saudi-Syrian efforts a resolution could be found. Aoun suggested "Christian areas would be spared [of violence in potential civil strife]" if the head of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea avoided resorting to weapons. Geagea continued a war of words saying "I did not expect you to reach such a low level and for you to call on your allies to militarily attack your Christian opponents. My dear friend General Aoun, lying can only get you so far and I had predicted an unsuccessful political end for you, but nothing like the disgraceful end such as the one we are witnessing today." Berri also warned of civil strife in the country.
MP Mohammad Raad gave his suggestions for ending the looming conflict in Lebanon: the March 14 alliance should stop resorting to regional and international states; the false witnesses should be dealt with "to uncover the source;" adopt moves to improve relations with Syria; all parties should acknowledge that "the army, people and Resistance" protect Lebanon; and, to "commit to building a strong, capable and just state."
The head of Lebanon's army, General Jean Qahwaji, vowed to confront attempts to stir discord as he said there were "no negative signs at present of repercussions of regional conflicts on the Lebanese arena. The more Lebanon is immune, the less vulnerable the country is from external repercussions." He also asserted that the domestic strife was "a democratic phenomenon," and there was "no fear on the path of security and stability."
Debkafile suggested Saudi Arabia was pressuring Saad Hariri to resign as prime minister and allow for someone else with closer relations to Syria as they see "no other way of saving Lebanon from tipping over into civil strife."Talal Arslan from the Lebanese Democratic Party criticised Saad Hariri for neglecting the security of Lebanon by not taking Hezbollah's word about the tribunal, labeling the STL "a US-Israeli plan to instigate strife among the Lebanese."
- Reputation of Tribunal
Following the controversy surrounding the STL As-Safir conducted a survey of Lebanese public opinion over their stance of the international probe and the documents submitted by Nasrallah. The results showed that 60% believe the international probe is politicised, unfair and non-neutral, while 43% supported an amendment in the method and the style of the investigation to be more impartial and neutral; 17% also called for a complete abolition of the STL. Fifty-five percent viewed the documents submitted by Nasrallah as convincing evidence of the suspicion of Israel. Almost half the respondents (49%) also said that they do not want to accuse any side in the killing, while 34% considered Israel to be behind the assassination and 5% accused the CIA and Mossad.
On 16 September, Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah told the parliamentary Finance and Budget Commission that the tribunal should be abolished before the end of September "otherwise the matter will be very dangerous."
After returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia, Saad Hariri reasserted support for a "strategic relationship" with Syria and also said he would not back down from supporting the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
Houri told Voice of Lebanon radio that Hariri also stressed maintaining openness in relations with Syria and standing by all he stated in his Asharq al-Awsat interview. "I, as prime minister, am committed to this strategic relationship with Syria that is built on ties between a state and another," Houri quoted Hariri as saying.
"The indictment has not been drafted yet...I will only file the indictment when I am satisfied that there is enough evidence...the impact of going too fast would be much worse. As I said before: The indictment has to be based on solid evidence.
"If I file an indictment and there is no evidence, the whole structure collapses. [When you look at the evidence on its own, they might mean nothing.] But when you put them together, then the whole picture becomes irrefutable."
"To those who say I am influenced by this or that person, I will tell them, 'Sorry, but I am not!'" – Daniel Bellemare, Prosecutor for the STL.
Judge Francois Roux also said that "the indictment is just the beginning...It is not the final decision or verdict. No one knows when the indictment will be filed. Even the prosecutor doesn't know." He added that in international penal law one could be declared innocent even after an indictment. The STL in the Hague refused to discuss either political alliance's approach to the tribunal.Al Akhbar reported that following pressure from the United States on its Lebanese allies not to bargain over the STL, it would issue its first round of indictments in March 2011.
- UN Response
In September 2010, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on political leaders in Lebanon not to interfere in the STL's affairs. However, he refused to discuss the status of the STL after Saad Hariri's acknowledgment of false witnesses. He told the press that the STL had made progress, while saying the tribunal was independent, and "should not be associated with any political statements," adding that the tribunal was "not in danger." Citing the STL's "independence" and dismissing fears of violence, he said "I want to be perfectly clear. This tribunal...[has] a clear mandate from the Security Council to uncover the truth and end impunity. I urge all Lebanese and regional parties not to prejudge the outcome, nor to interfere in the tribunal's work. ... It will go on." On the same day the Lebanese stock exchange lost 17%. The Secretary-General reiterated his fears for the stability of Lebanon days after Ahmedenijad visited the country. He also expressed concern that Hezbollah's weapons could be a "threat" to Lebanon.
During a controversial trip to Lebanon, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke about the controversy around the STL and the assassination: "Arrogant hegemonic powers used the sinful hand of treachery in Lebanon to reach a dear friend and a dignitary who was loyal to his country. Then accused another remaining friend in order to sow division, and then we see how reports get fabricated." Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said also the stability of Lebanon is "a gift that everyone benefits from. And if stability is gone, God forbid, and instability prevailed, those who will benefit are the enemies."
Then Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak said a verdict against a senior Hezbollah official could be detrimental to the internal security of Lebanon and added that "The fate of Lebanese consensus and coexistence should not become hostage to this indictment regardless of its content." However, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said "not any world political power or the United Nations can stop the work of the STL prosecutor. Nor can they order the UN Secretary General to stop [STL] funding or instruct the Security Council to annul its decision. I'm not sure what is behind this campaign on the Court, [but] there are dangers surrounding Lebanon."
Fall of government
The Lebanese government collapsed in January 2011 after 11 cabinet ministers aligned with the March 8 alliance, and one presidential appointee, withdrew over Prime Minister Saad Hariri's refusal to reject the STL.
Hariri said he would work to form a new government with his allies after "consultations." Nasrallah's reacted in saying that 8 March would not support Hariri and that "a new stage has begun."
The March 8 alliance-backed Najib Mikati was nominated to form a new government after winning a majority of votes in parliament. However, the process of a new government was read to be more difficult after Saudi Arabia pulled out of talks to assuage concerns following the fall of the government. However, Turkey said it would play active role to ease tensions. The March 14 alliance's Sunni supporters then called for "day of rage" over fears that Iran and Syria would gain influence in the country, a move that was read as "fanning the flames of sectarian tensions."
The United States reacted saying the STL was "irrevocable" and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of the issue and repercussions with regional leaders. While others also reacted with warnings, or, as in Iran's case, in blaming the United States and Israel for "sabotage and obstruction."
Hezbollah accusations against Israel
In his speech of 8 August, Nasrallah said he had evidence that would implicate Israel by proving their complicity in the assassination. This included Israeli surveillance of the route Hariri took when he was killed in 2005. The STL prosecutor Daniel Bellemare then called for the submission of all material held by Hezbollah that could help the investigations saying "In line with its mandate, the Office of the Prosecutor has requested the Lebanese authorities to provide all the information in [the] possession of Hezbollah...This request includes the video material that was shown on television during the press conference, as well any other material that would be of assistance to the Office of the Prosecutor in unveiling the truth." He also called on Nasrallah "to use his authority" to facilitate the investigation. Hezbollah then responded that due to the "politicised" nature of the tribunal it would instead be submitting its data to the Lebanese authorities. Hezbollah MP and State Minister for Administrative Development Mohammed Fneish said "What Lebanon's jurisdiction asks for we will provide, and what they do with that is their responsibility. Our position has not changed, however. Our evidence is in the hands of the Lebanese government... but that does not alter our view of the tribunal, which is that it has no credibility." On 17 August, Hezbollah said they had submitted the data to the Lebanese Prosecutor General Said Mirza in accordance with a request made by Saad Hariri following a meeting with Nasrallah's political assistant Hajj Hussein Khalil. They also added that Hezbollah was not concerned with the international investigation and that their stance towards the investigations remains unchanged. Hezbollah's deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said the party tried to solve the negligence of those affiliated with the STL in ruling out Israel's involvement from investigation, when it decided to release evidence of Israel's involvement. "Hezbollah is not responsible for finding the accused or presenting evidence to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. If there was any serious work to achieve the truth, the Mossad and members of the Israeli government should be summoned. We will follow up the issue and accuse Israel until achieving the truth."
Prime Minister Saad Hariri reportedly said Nasrallah's comments were "very important and sensitive." He said the STL should look into the data and footage presented by Nasrallah as it reflected the opinions of a lot of Lebanese. "Personally, I back taking Sayyed Nasrallah's data into consideration because I want to reach the truth in my father's assassination. In case Israel refused to cooperate with the investigation, then it would turn in my eyes from a suspect to a convict." He also called for a UN probe into the allegations. In regards to the brouhaha in Lebanon over the STL and its possible indictment Hariri tried again to calm tensions when he gave a speech over a Ramadan feast saying "there is a lot to be said, but I choose when to speak up and no one can impose the timing. Saad Hariri and all the Lebanese want the truth and nothing more than that, and we also want stability and to know who assassinated my father and the rest of martyrs." Parliamentary speaker Berri called for "appropriate steps" to follow Hezbollah's revelations, and added that "Those concerned know what they should do." He also responded to President Suleiman's pledge to arm the Lebanese military, saying the Lebanese army "has the right to obtain weapons from anywhere in the world. I'm ready to provide weapons to the army, even from underground."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad said Nasrallah's "very damning evidence has exposed all of the Zionist enemy's conspiracies. Syria was first targeted and then after lack of proof, Hezbollah was being accused." He added claims that Israel aims to create disputes through an assassination, which it then tries to pin on another side.
|“||It's too simply the international justice, the 'justice' which simply ignores the world's top criminal and refuses to only condemn the massacres it commits everywhere killing women and children and occupying others' land.||”|
Al Manar criticised the STL after Nasrallah's release of the data saying "Israeli enemy is 'innocent' and will remain so in the eyes of the international community and the STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare. The latter [request for] the data...was just 'formal' and that Bellemare sought through it to keep some 'lost credibility' for his 'politicized tribunal.'
Fawaz Gerges read the statement as showing Nasrallah trying to present "credible evidence to convince the Lebanese that Israel, not Syria or Hezbollah, was behind the assassination. [He] talked about who has the most to benefit from the assassination ... [by trying to] provide a very complex case by drawing a historical link between Israel." Aaron Klein, an Israeli political commentator said there was no surprised in the contents of the speech as "everybody in Israel was expecting [this], which was to use the Jewish state as a scapegoat because he is up against a rock and a hard place."
On 1 September, it was reported that the UN prosecutor Daniel Bellemare said the video shown by Nasrallah was "not being taken lightly." According to Al Manar, Israel later admitted that its drone pictures were captured by Hezbollah. According to Press TV, which is owned and operated by the Iranian Government, retired Israeli Major General Amos Yadlin stated that Israel had benefited from Hariri's killing as it was then able to launch multiple operations in Lebanon, as well as restore several espionage networks that enabled the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh.
Another subject of discussion, is that media reports, such as the Der Spiegel report, indicate that much of any case against Hezbollah would rest on circumstantial evidence drawn from cell phone records – both of Lebanon's mobile phone companies are believed to have been penetrated by Israel's intelligence services.
Charara Clinic incident
On 28 October 2010, a team composed of two STL investigators and their translator, escorted by Lebanese security forces, came to interview Dr. Iman Charara at her clinic, located in the prominently Shi'ite Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut, the Dahieh distrcit. Upon their arrival, a group of women charged at the group snatching a briefcase but causing no physical harm. Following the incident, Charara stated that she had cancelled all appointments for the day, in anticipation of the investigation team's visit, and that she cannot ascertain the cause of the clash. She has further stated that the investigators came to obtain the phone numbers of 14–17 of her patients. The incident prompted reactions from 14 March members, who issued their strong support towards the tribunal, while criticising the incident and naming Hezbollah as the group responsible for orchestrating it. Hezbollah, in turn, has vehemently denied these charges, criticising the international court's violation of the privacy of the Lebanese people. In a televised speech made a day following the incident, Nasrallah escalated his previous attacks on the tribunal as an American-Israeli scheme and stated that cooperation with the tribunal is tantamount to attacking the Resistance prompting condemnations from the majority March 14 Alliance as well as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
The first indictments were submitted on 17 January 2011 to the pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen. A STL statement read: "The prosecutor of the tribunal has submitted an indictment and supporting materials to the pre-trial judge...The contents of the indictment remain confidential at this stage." In March, the prosecutor filed an amendment to the indictment, with media speculating that it could name senior as well as rank and file Hezbollah members.
In reaction to the submission, U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the first indictment saying it could end an "era of impunity" and that it was "a significant and emotional time for the Lebanese people" and that "the US were joining the international community in calling on all leaders and factions to preserve calm and exercise restraint." Lebanon's Foreign Minister Ali Al Shami responded to him, saying that the US should cease interfering in Lebanon's affairs, while he summoned the U.S. Ambassador Maura Connelly to a meeting with a "key undecided lawmaker" Nicolas Fattouch. The embassy named the meeting "a part of routine meetings with personalities from across Lebanon's political spectrum."
On 30 June 2011, the STL issued four arrest warrants based on the indictment reviewed by Fransen. The warrants were submitted to the Lebanese authorities, but the accused were not publicly identified by the tribunal itself. However, according to the Lebanese media and the Interior Minister of Lebanon, the warrants were issued for Hezbollah members Mustafa Badr al-Din, Salim al-Ayyash, Assad Sabra and Hassan Unaisi. On 3 July, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah rejected the indictment and vowed that the accused individuals would not be arrested under any circumstances by any government. Nasrallah also denounced the tribunal as a foreign plot against his party, while calming down fears of internal strifes or civil war, assuring that the country's new government would ensure stability.
The Lebanese authorities had 30 days, up to 30 July 2011, to arrest the individuals named in the warrants. If the individuals were not arrested within 30 days, and the tribunal president saw that reasonable attempts to serve the indictment had been made, a public advertisement was to be issued in the media.
The list below details the counts against each individual indicted in the Tribunal and his or her current status. The column titled TA lists the number of counts of acts of terrorism with which an individual has been charged. MIA the number of counts of membership in illicit associations, FRC the number of counts of failure to report crimes, IH the number of crimes of intentional homicide, and CPI the number of crimes of causing personal injuries. Note that these are the counts with which an individual was indicted, not convicted.
to the STL
|Salim Ayyash||28 June 2011||2||—||—||3||—||In absentia||Case in pre-trial stage|||
|Mustafa Badreddine||28 June 2011||2||—||—||3||—||In absentia||Case in pre-trial stage|||
|Hussein Oneissi||28 June 2011||2||—||—||3||—||In absentia||Case in pre-trial stage|||
|Assad Sabra||28 June 2011||2||—||—||3||—||In absentia||Case in pre-trial stage|||
See also↑Jump back a section
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